Metropolitan: The Criterion Collection
Even in 1990, Whit Stillman's Metropolitan was a picture out of its time in following the then-dying preppy scene (here coined the "Upper Haute Bourgeois") and the droll parties they throw. Ironically, it's arguable that debutante culture has had a renewed resurgence in the mainstream due to the antics of such uselessly famous children of the rich like the Hilton sisters and their brood. But their sort of trashy infamy has little to do with the intellectual crowd assayed in Metropolitan, where the members may do drugs and have sex with each other, but also talk at length about socialism (a word one suspects Paris Hilton would be unable to define). Led in some ways by Nick Smith (Christopher Eigeman), they gather around Sally Fowler (Dylan Hundley), whose house provides the de facto base camp for their parties, and where the group drinks and argues about politics and literature. Their clan is enlarged by the inclusion of Tom Townsend (Edward Clements), who is invited in because he was wearing a tux (rented) and was once a member of their circle before his parents' divorce. He joins their tribe but remains the outsider, getting closest to Nick and engaging in friendly banter with Audrey Roget (Carolyn Farina). Tom doesn't know that Audrey's been holding a candle for him for quite some time, but he remains oblivious he still pines for his ex Serena Slocum (Elizabeth Thompson), while Audrey has a silent suitor in Charlie Black (Taylor Nichols). Metropolitan was Whit Stillman's debut feature, which he followed with Barcelona (1994) and The Last Days of Disco (1998); he's since fallen off the radar. In reviewing his biography, one gets a sense that all three films were derived from his own experiences, so perhaps he's run out of usable, interesting anecdotes from his life. If that's the case, it's cinema's loss. Stillman's work is some of the most nuanced and original his generation (the script for Metropolitan was Academy-nominated for Best Original Screenplay), and it calls up an intelligence and wit missing from the majority of his contemporaries who survived the early '90s Sundance boom. Metropolitan shows a very elegant filmmaker, aping at times Woody Allen and Jane Austen (who's name-checked throughout in a way that manages to be knowing without being too self-aware), an artist who understands a crumbling society that he also manages to make endearing in the face of its privilege. And, thankfully, it's also a rather funny film with a gloved romance suitable to its Austen-based sensibilities. Criterion presents Metropolitan in a good anamorphic transfer (1.66:1) with its original monaural soundtrack (DD 1.0). Extras include a commentary by Stillman, editor Christopher Tellefsen, and stars Christopher Eigeman and Taylor Nichols, outtakes (9 min.), and a memorial to line producer Brian Greenbaum (1 min.), as well as alternate casting clips with Troma's Lloyd Kaufman as the record producer (2 min.) and Will Kempe (who was moved to another role) as Nick Smith. Theatrical trailer, keep-case.